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ENGL 3010: Introduction to Literary Studies: Deconstruction

Key Individuals

Jacques Derrida

Paul de Man

Geoffrey Hartman

J. Hillis Miller

Harold Bloom

Noam Chomsky

Simon Critchley

Books in the Library

Deconstructionist argue that every text contains within it some ingredient undermining its purported system of meaning; in other words, each text has contradictory meanings.  The structure that seems to hold the text together is unstable because it depends on the conclusions of a particular ideology.  The practice of finding the point at which the text falls apart because of these internal inconsistencies is called deconstruction. 

"Derrida, who coined the term deconstruction, argues that in Western culture, people tend to think and express their thoughts in terms of binary oppositions. Something is white but not black, masculine and therefore not feminine, a cause rather than an effect. Other common and mutually exclusive pairs include beginning/end, conscious/unconscious, presence/absence, and speech/writing. Derrida suggests these oppositions are hierarchies in miniature, containing one term that Western culture views as positive or superior and another considered negative or inferior, even if only slightly so." 

Adapted from The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms by Ross Murfin and Supryia M. Ray. Copyright 1998 by Bedford Books.

Subject Headings and Keywords

When searching for information in the library catalog, databases, or internet search engines, use these subject headings or keywords:

  • Analysis (Philosophy)
  • Deconstruction
  • Literature - Philosophy
  • Semiotics and Literature